Growing as large as five feet and over 100 pounds, flathead catfish are one of North America’s largest fresh water fish. Their preferred habitats are deep pools, lakes, and large slow-moving rivers. Within these waters they prefer submerged cover such as logs. Good flathead spots typically include structure, located in relatively deep water ideally with moderate current, and access baitfish. Flatheads typically prey only on live fish.
As their name suggests, they have flat heads, yet they looks similar to other catfish. They come equipped with a smooth, scaleless skin, barbels, and spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins. Flathead are typically yellowish to light brown on the back and sides, with a yellowish to cream belly.
Reaching sexual maturity in three to six year, spawning occurs from late May through August, when the water temperatures reach 75 degrees or better. Flatheads prefer to nest in areas with submerged logs and other debris. Females lay approximately a 1,000 eggs per pound of body mass. After four to six days, the eggs hatch and the fry school together at the nest for several days, where the males guard them aggressively.
Flathead Catfish in Florida
The following is courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Appearance: A flat head, tiny eyes, squarish tail and protruding lower jaw distinguish flathead from other. They are yellow-brown, usually mottled above, with a creamy colored belly.
Habitat: Flathead are found in the Apalachicola and Escambia rivers, where they recently arrived from Georgia and Alabama. Flatheads prefer long, slow-flowing, moderately-turbid rivers.
Behavior: Spawning occurs in late spring. One or both parents excavate the nest that is usually made in a natural cavity or near a large submerged object. Females lay a golden-yellow mass of up to 100,000 eggs. The nest is guarded and the eggs are agitated by the male to keep them clean and aerated. They feed on other fish, especially catfish and sunfish.
State Record: 49.39 pounds, and 42.50 inches total length (girth 36.25").